Lockdown has been tough on families and friends – some haven’t seen each other in a year. Others have seen each other too much. Spending it trapped in a tiny apartment with your ex-wife and mother, however, is a different story altogether.
This is the exact situation New York-based photographer Neil Kramer found himself in. Usually focusing on street photography, Kramer turned his lens on his family when he went into isolation with his mother and ex-wife.
Kramer said their joint isolation came to be by a ‘bizarre confluence of coincidences’.
“My mother was supposed to be in Boca Raton, Florida but her rental apartment fell through and she decided to come back to New York for the winter. At the same time, there was a plumbing disaster in the Los Angeles house of Sophia, my ex-wife, and she had to move out. She asked if she could put her stuff in storage and come to New York for a few weeks before she looked for a new place. We never expected a pandemic to hit the world and that we would still be together ten months later.
He first wanted to shoot their living situation journalistically, but that didn’t work out because every day life of scrubbing down groceries with disinfectant didn’t make for great content.
Instead, he decided to take their real life experiences and recreate them the next day in a photo.
“Most of them started coming out either humorous, which I think was a coping mechanism for dealing with this lockdown. The photographs became a way to process our anxiety, almost like self-therapy.”
His images quickly went viral, but the one with the group in the bathtub together became especially popular. You can’t help but wonder what the heck was going on in that particular image.
“The photo of us in the bathtub is one of my favourites, because it captures the lack of boundaries that we had living together in such a small apartment. We laugh now that it became a popular photo because the shooting of it was the worst experience. We were trapped in a tiny bathroom along with a tripod in front of us, a light stand in the corner, the laptop sitting precariously on the toilet, and my mother freaking out that the light would fall into the bathtub filled with water and electrocute us. We took maybe four shots and then called it a day.”
For all the drama, that became the image shared the most.
Since he began his quarantine diary, Kramer has received emails from around the world about his images.
“Everyone has had to adjust to this new normal and figure out a way to stay safe. Even though living with your ex-wife and mother is fairly unusual, there has been nothing usual about the last year, and everyone has been living in weird arrangements, either college kids going back to their parents, grandparents moving in, or roommates stuck together. This year, the definition of “family” has definitely been expanded, and I think that is why reason this project has been so well-received.”
Kramer and his ex-wife, Sophia, have been divorced for several years but remain friends. During quarantine, the pair started having the same type of arguments they had while married, especially about boundaries.
“Fortunately, remembering that we were divorced made it easier to defuse things. We were already divorced!” Kramer says. “But I think this time together was good for us, as we got to know each other outside of the roles of husband and wife, just two family members getting each other through this weird time.”
Picture/s: Niel Kramer